The updated guidelines, which took effect from Friday, the 22nd of October, included the following:
- Full capacity is permissible at nightclub venues as is dancing without masks. While venues can return to full capacity, it’s important that operators have regard to the public health situation and the individual characteristics of the venues and decide on what safe capacity looks like for their venue
- At live music events, up to 1,500 standing patrons can attend and any capacity above this number must be fully seated. Socially Distanced bar service is permitted for drink orders and collection. All patrons must show proof of immunity and must have photo ID.
- The removal of the restrictions on multiple table bookings in a general hospitality setting means that family/social bookings are now permitted (a maximum of 15 per table, of which a max of 10 may be adults). However, such events must be fully seated, with food and beverages to be consumed at the table.
- Weddings can operate without any capacity restrictions. Table capacities are the same as those for general hospitality (above).
- To access indoor hospitality including pubs customers must be able to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination or immunity following recovery from Covid-19 and must have photo ID. Customers unable to provide the required evidence of vaccination or immunity following recovery may access outdoor hospitality only.
- A valid Covid-19 Digital Covid Certificate, with photo ID is required for admission to all venues operating for the purposes of live entertainment and nightclubs. Ticketing is required, for the purposes of contact tracing, for all nightclubs and venues and will be the subject of regulations to be put in place this week.
- Opening hours’ restrictions on licensed premises have been removed. Hotels and bars will apply closing times as set out in the Licensing Acts.
- Face coverings are still required at all times for employees in front-facing roles and by all patrons other than when they’re seated at their table or when dancing, drinking or eating in permitted live entertainment/nightclub venues.
- In licensed premises counter service may be permitted for ordering and collecting where orderly, safe and Socially Distanced queuing can occur. This will be the subject of regulation also. Government Public Health advice is still that table service is the safest style of service but relaxation recognises that queueing can be managed very safely once there is no congregation of people. Hand-sanitisers should be at all tables.
“Covid is still a real threat to our society and the safety guidelines are necessary to balance public health while also facilitating the reopening of all sectors,” said Minister Catherine Martin, “Nightclub and live entertainment venues can return to welcoming customers (subject to capacity and standing limits for live events) however it’s vitally important that each venue-operator utilises their skilled health and safety expertise and exercises judgment and caution with due regard to protecting public health.”
The measures will be reviewed in three weeks and updated guidance is available at https://covid19.failteireland.ie/ for the tourism and hospitality sector and at gov.ie for the live entertainment sector.
However the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has pointed out that the guidelines published for the nightclub and late-bar sectors will lead to confusion among both staff and customers and will be impossible to implement.
Government “all over the place”
Making late-night events ‘all ticket’ (which must be purchased in advance) will lead to public order incidents as large ticketless crowds gather outside clubs, it states.
“When it comes to reopening guidelines for the late-night sector the government appear to be all over the place with no practical knowledge of how the sector operates,” commented VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, pointing out that it had originally been suggested that events would be all-ticket only, but that stipulation was then removed from the guidelines. Yet hours before clubs reopened tickets were once again considered mandatory.
“This really has been a shambolic process from the press conference last Tuesday to this last-minute senseless U-turn,” he said at the weekend.
The trade now had a situation where clubs could sell tickets at the door last weekend but had to move to ticket-only in advance by this week.
“We’re extremely worried the new guidelines will lead to public order incidents as ticketless groups gather outside clubs. It is unworkable,” he believed.
“There remains simple questions that cannot be answered. How will this be managed in late bars? How will music and dancing be regulated in traditional pubs? Simple questions but officials remain unable to explain what guidelines pubs should implement.
“After being constrained for so long the sector deserves better. Right now it’s in a total mess with no leadership from government,” he concluded.
The Licensed Vintners Association too has described the new ticketing rules announced for live music and late-night hospitality as a disaster for late bars, nightclubs and musicians. It said the Government process to open the sector has become ‘Keystone-Cops-meets-Father-Ted stuff’.
At a Government briefing on the new guidelines held on Friday evening the LVA told Government officials this requirement was “completely unmanageable”.
During the course of the briefing it was made clear that anyone attending a late-night venue would need to secure a ticket, online and in advance. While the term “in advance” has still to be officially defined, it was made clear that this would need to be done a minimum of 24 hours in advance and potentially with up to 72 hours’ notice.
These measures would also apply to any licensed premises where live music or a DJ were performing meaning, for example, that customers attending an early evening trad session in a traditional pub would also have to secure tickets in advance.
“We can’t believe that this is being proposed by Government,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, speaking after Friday’s briefing session, “As we made clear at the meeting this is completely unworkable. It’s a disaster for late-bars, nightclubs and musicians. It simply won’t be possible to put such a system in place; it contradicts the very nature of social activity in Ireland. Do they know anything about the late-night economy?
“If the Government goes ahead with these requirements then ad hoc late-night socialising will not be possible. It could also have a devastating impact on DJs and live performers as most pubs simply won’t put on such entertainment.
“The very fact that this bombshell was dropped on the trade at 6.30pm on the very evening they reopen after 585 days of closure shows how appalling the Government planning for our reopening has been,” he concluded.
Representatives from the hospitality sector are meeting with Government officials this morning to get clarity on the new ticketing system, a system which was unnecessary over the Bank Holiday Weekend but which will be required from next weekend.
Padraig Cribben has called for “absolute clarity” over the ticketing development while an LVA spokesman stated that there remained “significant uncertainty” as to how the ticketing system would operate in detail.
Regulations governing the new ticketing system are expected to be published this Thursday.